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Here Are The Kickstarters That Are Out-Fundraising Presidential Candidates

The "Pickle Pipe" and other crowdfunded projects are demolishing some politicians.

StudioBananaThings / Kickstarter

Though people in the startup world whine a lot about politics and an entrenched class of Washington bureaucrats who hate disruption, the reality is that the two worlds are actually pretty similar. For example, politicians also have to raise a lot of money. And just like in Silicon Valley, the people who give them money often don’t get the returns they wanted.

Kickstarter is perhaps the easiest basis for comparison between politics and the tech industry; in both, millions of dollars are exchanged for concrete-but-possibly-empty promises.

That’s why we’ve decided to look at the recent fundraising hauls of various presidential candidates, and see how they stack up against an assortment of crowdfunded projects. How many My Little Pony-themed Dungeons & Dragons is former Rhode Island U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee worth? What does it say about Bobby Jindal that people want to give hundreds of thousands more dollars for a wireless meat thermometer than for his presidential campaign?

Our information on candidates’ third-quarter numbers comes from quarterly reports given to the Federal Election Commission that tracked fundraising from July through September. Information on Kickstarters comes from Kickstarter. Here are the details:

An industrial robot arm has raised 23 times as much money as ex-Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee

More than 720 people have given over $340,000 to some people who want to make a robotic arm called the “Dobot.” In the third quarter of this year, Democratic candidate Lincoln Chafee raised about $11,000 from donors and he gave himself $4,121.86. According to the Dobot Kickstarter page, the arm can work as a 3-D printer, photographer or sketch artist and can complete many other useful-seeming tasks. Lincoln Chafee, on the other hand, is in hot water for allegedly using taxpayer money to buy frogs for personal use.

This wireless meat thermometer out-raised Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal by almost $300,000

It appears that people think an Internet-connected piece of barbecue equipment is a worthier investment than the presidential campaign of one of the most unpopular governors in the country. Jindal, a Republican, raised about $580,000. The “Meater” has brought in about $860,000 since September 22.

2016 dropout and possible third-party candidate Jim Webb has narrowly beaten out headphones that play music by vibrating on your skull

Batband, a Google Glass look-alike that plays music by vibrating against your head, has raised about $630,000 since launching at the beginning of September. Jim Webb, the former Democratic senator from Virginia who used the debate stage as an opportunity to talk about the time he killed a guy, raised roughly $700,000. He recently dropped out of the Democratic primary, but is reportedly considering an independent run.*

Raising about $2.6 million, this “micro drone” is worth about 2.6 professor Lawrence Lessigs

Lawrence Lessig is a Harvard Law School professor running for the Democratic nomination on the single-issue platform of getting money out of politics. He is polling at 0 percent in Iowa. He wasn’t in this month’s debate, probably because Bernie Sanders, who’s polling at 41 percent in Iowa, agrees with him on the money in politics thing, and then some.

Lessig raised about $1 million in the third quarter. This hummingbird-sized drone controlled by a smartphone app, “Micro Drone 3.0,” has raised around $2.6 million on Indiegogo.**

This is what’s beating out the award-winning scholar:

Extreme Fliers / Indiegogo

The Pickle Pipe is creaming Republican candidate and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore

Jim Gilmore is polling terribly. People don’t really know who he is. This is probably why he only pulled in about $63,000 between July and September. On the other hand, everyone (okay, slight exaggeration) seems to like the Pickle Pipe, a “waterless fermentation airlock for Mason jars.” The makers of the Pickle Pipe have raised more than $100,000 since October 8.

If the Pickle Pipe reaches $125,000 in total funding, it will offer a free webcast workshop with “leading fermentation revivalist” Sandor Katz. If Jim Gilmore raises $125,000, it’ll maybe buy him another couple weeks on the campaign trail.

A spokesperson from Kickstarter declined to comment for this story.

* Jim Webb counts because he filed his October fundraising with the FEC; he might return to the race; the money he raised isn’t disappearing; and his candidacy has been one of the most delightfully strange parts of the 2016 election thus far.

** It’s on Indiegogo, yes, but the project is the kind of “creative project” that’s more commonly associated with Kickstarter.

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